Clothing sizes are weird. But so are the fits on patterns!
I've complained before how commercial pattern sizes are not only different than what we expect from storebought clothing, they are also meant to fit terribly. IMHO. I've even done a Sewing Circle on how to pick the right pattern size. But I read an article on Hello Giggles the other day about clothing sizes for store bought clothing, with a lot of good points and sources on the background. There was a recent NPR story about how stores have their own special sizing (we knew that, if we've ever compared Gap to Target to J.Crew or Forever 21 or anything...), and about the history of standardized sizing.
I knew this from what my professional dressmaker-mother has told me, but sizes were standardized (6, 8, 10, and so on) during WWII. Measurements were taken on young women, who were paid a small fee... many of these were poor 18-year-olds, so of course they were smaller than we are today. Here's more of the story:
"During 1939 and 1940, about 15,000 American women participated in a national survey conducted by the National Bureau of Home Economics of the U.S. Department of Agriculture…A technician took 59 measurements of each volunteer, who was dressed only in underwear.Volunteers were paid a small fee for participating…The purpose of the survey was to discover key measurements of the female body…and then to propose a sizing system based on this discovery."
Stores can change their sizes all they want, so we've gotten used to our 2012, well-fed American sizes. But, what does this mean for us, me and you readers of this blog?? Many of you sew your own clothes. I've been dealing with picking the right pattern size for some years, and I've got a system down for my fave patterns--but the stakes are high when you're cutting into fabric and putting your time into something, and you really want your project to turn out.
Sewing your own clothes and picking the right size = kinda a bigger deal than trying on clothes at a store and picking a size. But I've sort of worked out my system for doing this!
The short of it? In patterns, and according to the standardized sizing of 1940, I wear a size 12. In stores, I wear a size 2.
Well--My measurements say I would be a size 12 in patterns, but unfortunately it's not totally a science, because while patterns use standardized sizing, one dress may be meant to fit differently than another. Some patterns will tell you the wearing ease of the finished garment, and you can decide if you want yours to be that loose.
Like, look at the girl in the green dress on the cover of Simplicity 2444, which has recently become one of my fave patterns.
And look how I wanted this dress to fit on me, the first time I made it!(skirt from a vintage pattern)
To get that fit, I did not make the size the pattern would have had me make. Srsly, check out my Sewing Circle post about how to pick a pattern size, but also...
Think about the style of garment you're making, and assume that Simplicity or Butterick or even Vogue plans for it to fit generously on you. Clearly, this:
Should fit more loosely than this:
But duh; they're totally different dresses with different silhouettes--but you get what I mean. Some patterns, you want to fit like a glove, and others are meant to be roomy (at least in some places).
But you think, well, if it's too big, it's easier to make it smaller than bigger, right!?
Well, sort of. But, it's really frustrating when you cut out a pattern and to be safe you cut out a 10 cuz it says you're a 12, but it's HUGE and the bodice front is so wide it cuts into your arms, and the only way to make it smaller would be to take in the center front, and make a seam down it! Which would be a totally different style of dress than the original! So you have to measure the pattern pieces and plan ahead. Check out that Sewing Circle post.
On a pattern that you want to fit closely, be really careful.
Sad story, recent project--not really paying attention, I cut out a skirt from this pattern, which I hadn't used before: skirt D of Simplicity 2343.
Normally (and OMG don't try this at home!), I check my measurements on the pattern, which tells me I'm about a 12, and I cut out an 8 and it's HUGE. Don't try this at home. I'm not advocating cutting out two sizes smaller than the pattern recommends. I would feel terrible if you wasted your fabric.
But anyway, I cut this out and made it 90% of the way and assembled the backs to front, and tried it on and realized the side seams were like 2" past the center of my hips, I swear. Enormous. Gotta either take them in a ton, which might change the shape, or make a seam down the center front. Because that skirt, view D, was meant to fit snugly! Not roomy--it's a pencil skirt! It would look terrible baggy!
But I digress. A lot in this wordy post.
All I really wanted to talk about was... sizing is weird but it's not just the size, also the FIT. (Be careful before cutting into your fabric, or make a muslin first or use some cheap fabric you don't care about, or draft your own patterns that fit you perfectly).
Have you had frustrations in the past, with things fitting more snugly or loosely than you wanted? What do you do to make sure you get the right size, for patterns and shopping?